Tag Archives: musica

Folk’s Law and the return of the Dinosaurs

Even after we all left Modena City Ramblers, Cisco, Giovanni and I have remained friends. We shared things that everyone shares with their friends: dinners, jokes, a few intense discussions.

There is one discussion that keeps resurfacing despite the passing years. What is left of the years we spent, militating in the same band, the 90s of the last century? The antimafia movement. The slaughter of Justices Falcone and Borsellino. The Clean Hands investigation. The first center-left government in Italy’s republican history. Europe, slowly but surely integrating and expanding eastwards. For us (and many others) the discovery of our own ancestral culture, its peasant roots and eternal aspiration to social justice. All these came to pass, and were important. For us, they still are. And yet, they feel so far away in time and way of thinking.

Take me. I left my career in music, and now I work on open government and social innovation. I move between the hacker scene and inter-governmental institutions, between science and radical social practices. No one, in my current crowd, ever speaks of the stories that have made our history (“ours” in the sense of Italians at the threshold of age fifty, and “ours” also in the sense of Cisco’s, Giovanni’s, and mine). I now find these stories difficult to tell. The world has changed in twenty years, so much that they are all but unintelligible. Hell, we were there, and we are not even sure how they ended. Did we win? Did we lose? What is left?

And yet, tell the tale we must. This I have learned in my fifty years of life, twenty-five of them around folk music. When we were young men, Cisco, Giovanni and I hungered for stories. We would harass our older relatives to better understand what went on during World War II and the Nazi occupation of Italy. We would grill our slightly older friends to relive the rebellion of the 1970s through their eyes.

Now we are the older relatives and friends. We have the stories. We have daughters and sons, nieces and nephews, younger friends who want to hear them. Folk’s Law says we have no excuses: we must tell them.

Tell them how? This is easy. Our common language is music. So, Gio has once again embraced his guitar. I am blowing the dust off my accordion. Cisco has taken some time off his solo career. We are making a new album, the first one together in this millennium, and presumably the last.

Giovanni has written a volley of songs. They are beautiful. They are the songs you can write only at this age. He captured the mix of disenchantment and pride that I feel among people of my age, and from my native country. The disenchantment is for the many battles we have fought and lost; the pride is for finding each other still standing, despite everything, scarred but not surrendered. The album will be titled The dynosaurs, because that’s how we feel. Strange creatures from a distant past, who left mysterious footprints in the world in which we all live today. Two old friends from the times of Modena City Ramblers, Kaba Cavazzuti and Massimo Giuntini, help us in their capacity of artistic producers.

Obviously, The dinosaurs will be a project with very little commercial appeal. An acoustic album made by fifty year old men, who do not perform in talent shows? Seriously, who the hell cares. We are not even bothering to go talk to record labels. We will produce it through a crowdfunding campaign, and some of our own money. Folk music saved our lives twenty-five years ago. It’s time we give back.

More information is here (in Italian).

Here's me with my old band

Sign o’ the times: the death of rock’n’roll and the demise of yet another Italian music magazine

I used to be a fairly successful rock musician (Italian Wikipedia). So, when in the 90s the main Italian daily newspaper, Repubblica, launched a music magazine (called XL in its latest incarnation), my colleagues and I were paying close attention. This was, after all, possibly the only genuinely mass market music medium in the country other than embarassingly bad commercial radio – no Melody Maker for Italians. My projects ended up being featured in the mag several times over the years.

I recently gave another interview to XL magazine – this time in my capacity as an economist with some expertise in the digital economy. Lo and behold: the cover story is dedicated to the death of Rock’n’Roll (with a photo of the late Lou Reed to drive the point home). My interview is titled “Music has lost its ability to change the world”. And this sets the mood for what turns out to be the final issue of the magazine in paper: from now on it will be just a website, bits all the way down. The digital perfect storm, the crisis of traditional publishing models yada yada.

Hardly world shattering news, just another music mag in a peripheral country that did not make it through. But hey: there is a poetic touch in here. Look, I am featured again in this magazine – I used to be in it back in the days. It’s shutting down, because it could not navigate the Internet era. You, dear reader, and I, on the other hand, are not shutting down, because we more or less could. I count myself as very privileged: I had a front seat – more than that, I was literally in the stage – in the 90s, a time when the planet seemed to be changing for the better and music seemed to play a big role in the way we thought about the world and what to do with it. Later, just as the Internet age was setting in, I dropped out of my nice middle-class minor rockstar status and ventured onto the social Internet. I am still here, over twenty years after publishing a surprisingly successful debut album, leveraging my economics studies and lots of complexity science that I picked up on the way, trying to make sense of it all.

And yes, I am confused. And no, I have no master plan, I make it up as I go. But I don’t feel like a complete stranger to this world, and I’m not utterly lost or future shocked. Nor have I ended up a nostalgic. Really, I could not ask for more of my middle age.

Reinventing music: the state of the art at WOMEX 2011

WOMEX — as in World Music Expo — is the most important European meeting place for world music professionals: part market place, part festival, part conference. Last year it was attended by almost 2.500 delegates and 1.300 companies from 94 countries. I have been attending for years: it has been a valuable tool of the trade for Fiamma Fumana. Each year WOMEX selects the best proposals for showcases and conference talks; the choice is handed over to a juty of seven individuals, nicknamed “the Seven Samurai” in Womexican parlance.

This year I have the honour of riding with the samurai. I have been appointed as one the jurors tasked with planning the conference. I would be really glad to select high quality talks that show delegates where music is going, between mutations in its business models, its ever-evolving digital ecology, its cultural tensions between roots and global modernity; and that inspire their work in the future. I would like to invite anybody who has an experience to show, a contribution to the discussion or just an original point of view to submit their proposal before April 15th: my fellow samurai Jody Gillett (chief editor of Mondomix) and I will invite the author of the best proposals to Copenhagen, come October, for a discussion on the state of the art of music and its business. See here for instructions on how to submit a proposal. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any question, and to spread the word to whoever you think might be interested.